Ikea is using self-driving trucks for select middle mile deliveries.
Ikea is the latest retailer to test the effectiveness of robotic trucks in the ‘middle mile’ of its supply chain.
The Sweden-based global furniture and home goods giant is teaming up with self-driving trucking company Kodiak Robotics to pilot autonomous freight deliveries in Texas. The program, which began on Aug. 8, 2022, includes a Kodiak autonomous heavy-duty truck transporting Ikea products seven days a week between an Ikea distribution center in Baytown and an Ikea store in Frisco, Texas.
The main purpose of the pilot is to get a better understanding of how autonomous driving technology may contribute to increased road safety and better working conditions for truck drivers on the longer distances. The self-driving truck has a professional safety truck driver behind the wheel who picks up a loaded trailer at the distribution center each morning and oversees the autonomous delivery to the store by late afternoon.
“We are proud to be working with Kodiak to achieve our ambitious goals of being at the forefront of innovation and building capabilities for future transportation,” said Dariusz Mroczek, category area transport manager, Ikea Supply Chain Operations. “Kodiak’s technology will contribute towards our objective to put the driver in focus in the transition toward automated transportation and toward our road safety agenda.”
“Ikea and Kodiak share a commitment to putting safety first,” said Don Burnette, founder and CEO, Kodiak Robotics. “Together we can enhance safety, improve working conditions for drivers, and create a more sustainable freight transportation system. Adopting autonomous trucking technology can improve drivers’ quality of life by focusing on the local driving jobs most prefer to do. We look forward to working with the Ikea carrier partners to bring these benefits to the Ikea supply chain.”
Retailers test autonomy in the ‘middle mile’
The middle mile is the point in the supply chain where goods travel between warehouses or from a warehouse to a “last mile” pickup point. Walmart became the first company to use autonomous delivery trucks with no safety driver in the middle mile of its supply chain in a deployment it launched with Gatik vehicles in November 2021.
And in October 2022, Canadian grocer Loblaw Companies Ltd. partnered with Gatik to transport orders for its PC Express buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) service using multi-temperature autonomous box trucks, without a human safety driver. Since January 2020, Loblaw and Gatik have transported more than 150,000 autonomous middle mile deliveries with a safety driver on board, featuring a 100% safety record.
According to Loblaw, performing delivery with artificial intelligence (AI)-based autonomous vehicles enables it to operate more routes and make more frequent trips, establishing a supply chain that is safer and more sustainable and resilient. The retailer is shifting out of pilot to fully driverless deployment following a three-month period that included assessment of end-to-end technology, development and deployment processes, standards and regulatory compliance, risk assessment and evaluation of control measures; as well as physical component-, subsystem- and vehicle-level testing.